Patagonia – Cultural Fuel for Corporate Tanks

When you first arrive to a location, you know something special is about to transpire when all of your senses are engaged on first impression. This is what happened to me on a recent tour of Patagonia’s headquarters.
It all happened so fast I am not sure which sense was engaged first. Upon arrival, I was greeted with the sound of kids playing outside in the on-campus daycare. In my sight line was a clear mission statement in the lobby. With the use of organic materials and large windows, there was a scent of fresh air everywhere. I was greeted by a warm hug and smile from a man named Chipper, who I easily could have wrote an entire post about titled “Why Your Company Needs a Chipper.” Last by not least, my colleague George and I were offered to have a meal before our tour in Patagonia’s cafeteria where we were assured produce was sourced locally.

boardsSometimes perception and reality are not always aligned, yet this is not the case at Patagonia. I wanted to tour Patagonia because I was inspired and aligned to what Patagonia’s founder Yvon Chouinard had to say in his book, “Let My People Go Surfing.” Like Yvon, I believe the best path to sustainable growth, profits and being able to give back is investing in your people. Investing in people is not just about perks and benefits. Investing is also about growth, well-being and raising the consciousness of individuals. Patagonia does all of this. The proof was evident at all stops on the tour.  Each story that was shared with us was backed up with visual proof and statistics.  Evidence of employees being free to go surfing was apparent when encountering the stack of surfboards under a staircase by a door.  The importance of giving back and protecting the planet was clear by the space given to non-profit initiates at Patagonia. Humility and accountability themes were supported by Chipper’s communication and Yvon’s humble office space that is shared with the rest of the executive team.

People, Planet, Profit

yofficeIt is clear that Patagonia understands that in order to be an exceptional organization, a company must focus on the intangible of elements of cultural building. It takes trust. It takes processes that support people doing their best work. It takes basic human connection, care and collaboration.
At the end of tour I was blessed to be on the inside of special moment between one of the kids in daycare and Chipper. As our tour wrapped up, we sat down for conversation outside on a picnic table made from reclaimed materials.  Seeing Chipper, a young boy rushed to the edge of the daycare playground and excitedly stated, “Hey Chipper, you owe me a $1.” It was so candid and charming. I could only imagine how many moments like this happen in day. With that being said what I liked most about Patagonia is it does not seem like much is taking for granted or overlooked. There is willingness to do better, be better and give better….truly inspirational. Now, how can we get more companies to be inspired to do the same?


Click here for an infographic on corporate culture featuring Patagonia.